I  do not anticipate the beginning of 2021 to be miraculously different from what we have all experienced from the year 2020. 

It would be incredible to wake up on Jan. 1, and not hear the words: quarantine, coronavirus, virtual, lock-down, COVID, masks, testing or even symptoms. I am preparing for a likely experience of more of the same before life returns to anything that feels normal. In the meantime, there are kids and livestock to raise.

My husband loves cattle dogs. In college, he had a Blue Heeler that was precious. A few years ago, I found someone selling puppies online in a town over in Oklahoma. My husband ended up bringing home two – one for us and one for his brother. They were covered in fleas when he brought them home. These two pups looked rough and were missing hair because of all their bites. The first thing I did was treated them. Once we got rid of the bugs, these puppies were ready to be loved.

The puppy we ended up raising was the female, Dixie. She turned out to be incredibly smart and terribly destructive. That summer, she tore through all my potted plants and dug up most of my garden. By fall, I was afraid to plant any mums because I knew this rascal was only going to dig them up. Eventually, Dixie learned to behave herself and we all grew to love her.

One of the funniest things about her is that she is very protective of our children. When they were little, they would run through the front yard and she would chase them. She would gently nip their heels trying to get them back close to the house. If they went swimming at the neighbor’s pool, we had to pen her up. She would whine, cry and bite the water every time a child would swim under water. It turns out, this dog worried about us just like a mother.

A stray dog showed up and got friendly with her right before her first birthday. Our niece was visiting and rolled Dixie over for a belly scratch and discovered that our puppy had gotten fat and was showing signs of pregnancy. Not too long after the discovery, she birthed eight mutt puppies under our deck. Our children were delighted. Dixie was a wonderful mother. I worked hard to find each of her offspring a loving home. After the last puppy left our farm, Dixie went into our local veterinarian’s office for an appointment to be spayed.

Two of our children were working together to create some action shots for our daughter’s photography class today. Dixie had followed them up and down our driveway to keep an eye on them. She was standing out in the crossroad and was struck by a car. Our children saw it all and were devastated. My husband scooped her up right away.

Tonight, as I write this, Dixie is in rough shape in my laundry room resting after an emergency visit to the veterinarian. She has a dislocated elbow that needs to be addressed once her body’s shock has subsided. We are hopeful that she does not have neurological damage in her back. 

As sad as today’s events were, I watched our family gather around her with so much love and care. Whatever 2021 may bring, my hope is for the tenderness our family poured out on our beloved pet can be showered among our fellow man. Cherish everyone you love this Christmas, dear neighbor.

Jody Harris is a freelance communications specialist, gardener, ranch wife and mother of four. She and her family raise Angus beef cattle and other critters on their northwest Arkansas ranch. She is a graduate of Missouri State University. To contact Jody, go to and click on ‘Contact Us.’


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